- Feb 22 2023(Photo: YouTube)
Vale Chris Wilson
Vale Chris Wilson
Australian music, and especially Melbourne music, has suffered another major blow with the passing yesterday of singer/songwriter/harmonica (and sometime guitar and sax) player Chris Wilson, who died yesterday the age of 62, having being diagnosed with pancreatic cancer in July last year.
A big man with an even bigger voice, Chris was known foremostly as a bluesman, but his music went beyond that. He first came to national attention playing harp and a bit of sax in the mid-to-late 80s as a member of Melbourne band Harem Scarem, who came from punk-blues background to be touted by some as heirs to Chris’s beloved 70s Australian blues-rockers like Carson and Chain. At the same time, he was regularly performing with legendary Sydney punk band X, who had moved to Melbourne (which was the beginning of a decades-long working relationship with X’s Steve Lucas), and was working with both Hunters & Collectors and Paul Kelly & The Coloured Girls.
Yes, that’s Chris’s harp playing on the hit “Dumb Things.”
After Harem Scarem Split, Chris went on to form the much-loved Crown of Thorns, highlighting his own songs and voice for the first time, and bringing him to prominence on the thriving Melbourne scene.
Chris would soon sign as a solo artist to Mushroom, with whom his releases included the classic live album Live at the Continental and the classic double studio album The Long Weekend. Around the time of his first Mushroom album – Landlocked - in 1992, he opened for Bob Dylan in Melbourne, after which Bob visited his dressing room to shake his hand. His Mushroom stint earned Chris a number of ARIA nominations, including Best Male Artist nomination in 1993 and 1995.
Wilson’s commercial peak came with the 1995 release of the Top 20 album Short Cool Ones recorded in tandem with Diesel under the name Wilson Diesel.
A humble and giving man who was deeply knowledgable about the roots and rock music that he loved, Chris remained a constant on the local scene, while simultaneously maintaining a career as a high school teacher. He worked with numerous other locals including the likes of his old mate Steve Lucas, former Dingo Kerryn Tolhurst, Geoff Achison, Jeff Lang, and his singer/songwriter/broadcaster wife, Sarah Carroll.
The mid-2018 announcement of Wilson’s illness led to an instantly sold-out fundraiser at the Corner Hotel and a GoFundMe page which raised over AU$100,000 for Chris and his family in just a few days.
Chris Wilson’s passing yesterday has seen an outpouring of love and tributes from right across the scene. He is survived by his wife Sarah Carroll and their sons Fenn and George.
Let’s hear that beautiful harp and voice one more time with another one from Live at the Continental. This one certainly feels appropriate today.
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